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Germany Bids to Nationalize Hypo Real Estate

This is a big deal because Hypo Real Estate is a major commercial real estate lender. It had somewhat of a U.S. presence.

Germany's government wants to buy Hypo Real Estate, the crisis-stricken lender, in what would be the country's first bank nationalisation since the 1930s. Soffin, the vehicle set up by the government to rescue banks, yesterday tabled a bid for Hypo, offering €1.39 a share for the bank, a 16 per cent premium to its value at the close of trading on Wednesday.

Hypo Real Estate already depends on government support for survival, having previously sought credit lines and loan guarantees worth more than €100bn (£90bn). But after losing €5.5bn last year, the bank, which has been harder hit by the credit crisis than any other German institution, remains below the minimum solvency levels required by the country's banking regulations.

The move by Soffin follows new laws introduced in Germany last week, which pave the way for bank nationalisations. Hannes Rehm, the chairman of Soffin, said he wanted to "stabilise the financial market", but a nationalisation of Hypo Real Estate will not take place without controversy.

Under German law, Soffin, which already owns a 9 per cent stake in the bank, could effectively force all shareholders to sell up if it is able to secure a majority holding. That could lead to a showdown with the US private equity group JC Flowers, which is the largest shareholder in Hypo Real Estate.

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